Bonds Trial Update: The Brothers Giambi

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Yesterday’s installment of the Barry Bonds trial didn’t provide the salacious highs of Monday’s Kimberly Bell testimony, but it made up for it with a varied menu of witnesses.  Most notably Jason and Jeremy Giambi, but let’s take this all in order, shall we?

First up was a man named Barry Sample, an expert in drug testing. Which involves … giving samples. Hmm. Maybe someone is putting us on here, because that name is too on-the-nose.  His testimony sounded legit, however. He explained why it’s so hard to use a Whizzinator and stuff like that.  For the record, he also testified that Bonds’ 2003 sample — which was part of baseball’s pilot drug testing program — came up negative for drugs at first, though a second test of the sample came back positive. Anyone feel better about the veracity of the leaked name from that famous list yet?

Next up was a man named Dale Kennedy, who is in the business of collecting urine samples from Major League Baseball players. I bet he’s great at parties. His testimony seemed pretty irrelevant. He wasn’t even cross-examined.

After Kennedy’s testimony came the hubub about whether Kimberly Bell changed her testicle testimony since 2003. I discussed this in detail yesterday. Upshot: this could be a bad thing for the prosecution.  If the jury is instructed to ignore her testimony about Barry’s berries, her credibility may be irreparably damaged and if that happens, the only person who has testified that Bonds knew he had taken steroids prior to his grand jury testimony may be discredited.  For now the judge is taking no action on the matter. If that doesn’t change, no harm, no foul for the prosecution.

The most interesting testimony of the day came from former Giants trainer and current Dodgers trainer Stan Conte. Conte is one of the most respected trainers in the game, but he was thrust into steroids-in-baseball fame when the Mitchell Report came out. There we learned how Brian Sabean was content to throw him under the bus when it came to Barry Bonds and Greg Anderson.

Specifically, in 2000, Conte went to Sabean to complain about known drug dealers like Greg Anderson hanging out in the locker room. Conte asked Sabean if it were OK to kick Greg Anderson out of the locker room. Sabean didn’t object. But then Conte, no idiot, asked Sabean if he’d have Conte’s back if Barry Bonds got angry about it and tried to have him fired. According to the Mitchell Report — and revisited in Conte’s testimony yesterday — Sabean told Conte that he was on his own if that happened. You don’t have to be genius to see that Sabean’s baloney in this regard set up Conte as a potential scapegoat in the event someone ever raised a ruckus about the Giants’ tolerance of Anderson, Bonds and steroids (“I told the trainer to do what was necessary. If he didn’t . . . “).  It certainly makes Conte a sympathetic figure and bolsters his integrity when it comes to steroids in baseball.

Beyond that, Conte’s testimony focused on his disapproval of steroids, Bonds’ unique training regimen and how, over time, he and Bonds had a falling out over Bonds’ training and rehab.  It seemed like the prosecution wanted to use this friction as a means of showing that Bonds was a rogue and to imply that Bonds had something to hide from his trainer. The defense, in contrast, seemed to be arguing that Conte’s personal tiff with Bonds makes him a biased witness. Indeed, the defense seems to be doing that with everyone.  Personally, it doesn’t sound like either side can claim the Conte testimony as a big win. It was factual and straightforward, but there was no mention of Conte being aware of Bonds’ steroids use, let alone Bonds admitting that he was aware of it, and thus I can’t see how the jury can use it to reach any conclusions about whether Bonds lied under oath.

Finally came a trio of ballplayers: Jason Giambi, Jeremy Giambi and Marvin Bernard. All three of them testified to receiving steroids from Greg Anderson (though all also testified that they had been taking steroids before meeting Anderson too).  All of them testified that they more or less knew that what they were receiving was steroids or at least steroids-like substances that were designed to be undetectable performance enhancing drugs such as The Cream and the Clear.  None of them testified about Barry Bonds at all.

The point of the player testimony: to show the jury a pattern of ballplayers knowingly receiving steroids from Greg Anderson and hoping that they conclude that Barry Bonds had to have known too.  This could be effective if the ballplayers themselves came across as having a clear idea of what they were taking.  Based on secondhand accounts of the testimony this was hit-and-miss yesterday, with the Giambis and Bernard voicing varying degrees of certainty about it all, what the drugs were intended to do, and whether they felt the drugs actually, you know, worked.

It strikes me that the player testimony could provide corroborating and/or supporting evidence if the jury is inclined to believe that Bonds lied, but it’s hard to see how it provides anything close to a smoking gun.  And it’s a smoking gun that the prosecution has been unable to come up with so far.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Indians 9, Twins 3; Twins 4, Indians 2: Yan Gomes and Jason Kipnis each had three hits and a homer in the first game, helping the Indians win their sixth straight. That streak ended in the second game, however, as Aaron Slegers, making his big league debut, allowed only two runs while pitching into the seventh and Max Kepler hit a go-ahead homer that inning. Eduardo Escobar knocked in two on a 3-for-5 evening.

Diamondbacks 4, Astros 0: Patrick Corbin fell one out short of a shutout, allowing only four hits in eight and two-thirds, and Archie Bradley retired the final batter to make it a team effort. Jake Lamb homered. Daniel Delscalso hit an inside-the-park homer. Lamb called that weirdness and raised by striking out on a wild pitch that allowed David Peralta to scores from third.

Reds 13, Cubs 10: The Reds scored nine runs in the second inning. Normally that’d be enough to ensure a win, but this one was wild, with the Cubs coming back to tie it in the fifth. The Reds kept scoring, however, winning it going away. Lots of crooked numbers in this box score, with Reds outfielder Phillip Ervin driving in four, including the two-run homer which broke the 9-9 ties, and Jose Peraza and Joey Votto each driving in three for Cincinnati. The Cubs hit six homers: Ian Happ had two and Kris Bryant, Alex Avila, Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber each hitting one. Jon Lester gave up nine runs — seven earned — and left before he could finish two innings. Scott Feldman allowed six in less than four.

Braves 10, Rockies 4Ender Inciarte hit two of Atlanta’s four homers as the Braves bounced back from Wednesday’s rout. Freddie Freeman and Tyler Flowers also homered as Colorado and Atlanta split their four-game set. A scare for the Rockies: Nolan Arenado had a ball smack his hand as he tried to field it at third, forcing him out of the game. X-rays came back negative, however, which is positive.

Blue Jays 5, Rays 3: It was tied 3-3 in the eighth, thanks in part to two solo homers from Josh Donaldson, when Justin Smoak hit a two-run homer. Donaldson is on fire, having hit 11 home runs over his past 19 games, including four times in this series. He’s batting .400 (20 for 50) with 21 RBI in the month of August. There are nine teams in the AL realistically competing for two Wild Card spots, with the Blue Jays — previously written off for dead — among them, three games out of the second spot. September is gonna be nuts.

Cardinals 11, Pirates 7: Dexter Fowler drove in three, two of which coming on a triple, as the Cardinals come back after being down 5-0. Game highlight, though, was Josh Harrison dancing.

Yankees 7, Mets 5Gary Sanchez homered and drove in five runs as the Yankees sweep the Mets in the Subway Series. Which is misnamed, as I figure that few if any of the players involved actually take the subway to the games anymore, what with the subway being an absolute disaster these days.

Rangers 9, White Sox 8: Nomar Mazara homered in drove in five too, hitting a tie-breaking three-run homer in the fifth. The Rangers have won four straight and seven of eight, climbing back to .500. Mazara has 25 RBI in his past 19 games and is on a pace for 111.

Nationals 2, Padres 1: The Nats only had four hits in the game, but one of them was a Ryan Zimmerman homer to break a 1-1 tie in the eighth. Edwin Jackson — who, at this point, we must refer to as “Edwin Jackson of all people” every time he’s mentioned — allowed one run over seven, scattering eight hits.

Giants 5, Phillies 4Jeff Samardzija was solid, winning for the fourth time in his last five starts and Jarrett Parker hit a two-run double in the fifth that led to Denard Span and Hunter Pence scoring within seconds of each other after Pence almost caught up with Span on the base paths:

Don’t look back, somethin’ might be gainin’ on ya.

Kris Bryant on Joey Votto: “He’s the best player ever … He’s a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”

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The Cubs wrapped up a four-game series against the Reds at Wrigley Field on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 13-10 loss to split the set. They’ll match up again against the Reds next week for a three-game series in Cincinnati. That’s good news for Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, because that means he’ll get to see Reds first baseman Joey Votto some more.

As CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports, Bryant has grown quite fond of Votto. Bryant has already won a World Series ring, a Rookie of the Year Award, and an MVP Award, but he still looks up to Votto. According to Bryant, Votto is “the best player ever.” He added, ““He’s my favorite player. I love watching him. I love talking to him, just picking his brain. He gets a lot of (heat) about his walks and working at-bats and some people want him to swing at more pitches. But, gosh, I mean, he does an unbelievable job. You know that he’s going to give you a great at-bat every time he goes up there. It’s definitely a guy that I look up to and I can learn from.”

Bryant said that Votto is “a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”

Bryant also explained how his approach changed by watching Votto. He said that in his rookie season, he was “swinging at everything.” Votto, however, is “aggressive, but he’s not going to swing at a pitch until he wants it.”

Indeed, in Bryant’s rookie season, he struck out in nearly 31 percent of his 650 plate appearances. This season, he has struck out in only 19 percent of his PA. His walk rate has also increased by more than 2.5 percent since his rookie campaign. Compared to last year, Bryant is down in HR and RBI, but his average is the same, his on-base percentage is markedly better, and his slugging percentage is only down by a minute amount.